I had a really hard time narrowing my choices of readings for this week down to three – so many things sounded so interesting! However, I was able to narrow it down to articles that dealt with information literacy and its potential effect on schoolchildren. They range from a study to a literature review to a shorter professional article, so I was able to get a few different perspectives on on issue.
- “Digital literacy practices among youth populations: A review of the literature” – Barbara Blummer (Spring 2008)
- “The effects of information and communication technology on at risk children of low economic status: Make It-Take It After-School Case Study” – Shahram Amiri (2009)
- “The Final Hurdle?” – Ann Jason Kenney (March 2006)
- note: I know that none of these are terribly recent (not that they are that old either), but I think they still bring up a lot of things to think about.
The Blummer articles was the first one that I read in this group. She focused mostly on literature on the differences between teen digital literacy in schools as compared to use at home; the studies she cited found that students had a lot more experience on their own time to explore different digital avenues of communication and creation. Blummer also looked at studies about the effect that computer use has on students in poverty as well as immigrant students. All of these studies found that students with access to a computer did better academically than similar peers who did not. The takeaway point is that digital literacies are becoming more and more important and so we need to make sure that students get in-class instruction as well as time outside in order to take advantage of everything available to them.
Next was the Amiri study on at-risk youth in a MITIAS program, where middle and high school students spent two weeks learning basic computer skills and another two weeks taking apart and putting together a computer that they could later take home thanks to corporate sponsorships (sounds a bit like Michigan Makers taken to a higher level, no?). Compared to a control group of students with no additional instruction, Amiri found that students in the MITIAS program showed nearly 25% gains in grade point average and test scores in writing, reading, and math. These results aligned with other studies cited in this paper where students with computers at home did better academically than those who did not.
These articles had similar themes, as you can tell by the synopses above, and they really focus on the importance of information literacy in the classroom. It’s good to see actual evidence that this sort of instruction can have an impact on students’ academic performance in order to justify including it in the curriculum. I also found it pretty remarkable just how much digital literacy can do for students from lower socioeconomic status or from immigrant families. As I alluded to, the MITIAS program reminds me of Michigan Makers, except that they have the funding to allow the students to take home the computers they build. This kind of increased access is monumental in combating the digital divide seen between people of different levels of wealth. None of the studies above directly mentioned libraries (though the Blummer article mentioned a study about Mexican telecenters that reminded me of libraries due to the availability of computers), but I think libraries can help to provide the digital resources to students who may not have them at home. The more I read about the power information and technology can have on the lives of children, the more I want to provide these sorts of services in my future career.
Lastly, I had the Kenney article, which was very different from the other two and yet so strange to me that I couldn’t pass it up. It was about a test known as the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy Assessment, a voluntary test for schools who want to see how well their students do in information literacy-related tasks. The test was still in development at the time Kenney wrote the article, and her school was one of several involved in the early stages of testing. (Note: the ICT Literacy Assessment is still voluntary but is now called the iSkills assessment. It seems unchanged in scope.)
What was interesting was that the “real-time, scenario-based tasks” described by Kenney sound an awful lot like the plans that are in the works for the Common Core State Standards. They have slightly different content, with the now-iSkills assessment focusing on information literacy specifically and the CCSS testing more traditional subjects like English Language Arts and Mathematics, though research and inquiry are rolled into the ELA CCSS in many places. Both also could be problematic in widespread implementation if schools do not have enough computers for all students. Kenney notes that the iSkills assessment can give librarians a chance to collaborate with teachers so that students will get instruction on the materials in the test, and I think a lot of librarians are seeing CCSS as a similar opportunity. I think it is important for educators to come together to make sure that students learn how to navigate the huge amount of information that surrounds them, and librarians have additional tools and skills in digital literacy that can fill in the gaps that teachers might not have the chance to cover.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: information is power. Digital literacy skills need to be nurtured in the classroom if our students will have the skills needed to change not only their own lives but the world.